Genetic variation in host susceptibility to attack by the mahogany shoot borer, Hypsipyla grandella (Zeller)
1 Attack by shoot borers (Hypsipyla grandella Zeller) is the main factor limiting the cultivation of Cedrela odorata and Swietenia macrophylla, two economically important members of the mahogany family. No viable methods of pest control are currently available. To assess for genetic variation in susceptibility to pest attack, a combined progeny/provenance test of C. odorata and a provenance test of S. macrophylla were established separately at CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica, and assessed intensively over an 84-week period.
2 Variation in height growth between provenances was highly significant in both species, provenance means varying by a factor of 2.7 and 1.2 in C. odorata and S. macrophylla, respectively. Cedrela odorata also displayed provenance variation in foliar phenology, as 94.7% of the trees from a ‘wet zone’ provenance remained foliated, whereas > 35% of trees from three ‘dry zone’ provenances abscised their leaves during the dry season.
3 Both species displayed significant genetic variation in susceptibility to shoot borer attack. At the peak of attack during the second year of growth, the effect of provenance was highly significant in both species, the mean number of attacks per tree varying between 0.8–2.4 and 0.6–1.3 in different provenances of C. odorata and S. macrophylla, respectively. A provenance of C. odorata from San Carlos, Costa Rica, displayed consistently lower susceptibility to pest attack, being subjected to fewer attacks during the first year and demonstrating a higher mean height to first point of damage.
4 The nitrogen, total tannin and proanthocyanidin concentration of foliage varied significantly between C. odorata provenances: nitrogen concentration was significantly lower and tannin and proanthocyanidin contents were significantly higher in trees from the San Carlos provenance, Costa Rica. This study therefore suggests that proanthocyanidins may reduce susceptibility of C. odorata to H. grandella, at least during the early period of growth.
5 These results provide support for the development of plant resistance as a strategy for managing shoot borers. In particular, there may be scope for selecting for high foliar proanthocyanidin content and the ability to tolerate attack by vigorous apical growth.